A wispy jacket that can be scrunched up and stashed in a pocket, you’d be forgiven for accidentally putting this out with your plastic-bag recycling (big mistake, though, given the price tag). In fact, this jacket may qualify as the biggest example of looks can deceive. Our tester managed to put this piece to the sword on fall and winter bike rides when conditions would fluctuate from balmy to windy to wet. The lightweight jacket—designed after the transparent rain capes worn by pro cyclists to allow for visibility of sponsors’ logos and race numbers—is surprisingly warm and comfortable. In fact, our tester even wore this out during a late-night bar hop and was pleasantly surprised to be the recipient of multiple compliments and requests to finger the lightweight micro ripstop nylon (yeah, we know, the sacrifices we ask our gear testers to make here at Gearzilla…). But cycle-specific detailing like  the elastic cuffs, a drop tail, laser-vents, reflective logos, and a burly DWR laminate do keep it firmly in place on the saddle.

If you’re like us, your bike cost more than your first car, so it’s a bit unsettling to watch it gather dust during winter months. But the right apparel can keep you riding year-round—even during the horrors of ice, sleet, and snow. The trick is to invest in pieces that block the wind, and provide sufficient insulation while wicking and dispersing sweat. Craft, the Swedish company known for its innovative base layers, has also developed a stellar reputation for functional outwear for high aerobic activities like biking, running and, cross-country skiing. The Active Thermal Wind Tights have a comfy chamois that involves a seamless, laser-cut pad and four-way stretch fabric. The new-for-2012 chamois is laser-cut to remove unnecessary bulk, and has a foam core that our testers deemed nearly as soft as a down pillow. The chamois also boasts antimicrobial and hydrophilic properties, which help downplay the inevitable moisture build-up and odor. The body of the pants is a symphony of proprietary weather-fighting fabrics that unite to block wind while keeping you toasty warm and sweat free. How? The multi-panel is designed to map with specific fabrics to accentuate stretch, wicking properties, and warmth exactly where you need them. The inside is a square-channel microfleece that’s coupled with a softly brushed poly/nylon blend (Craft’s C392 proprietary fabric). Not only is it soft against the skin, it sucks up moisture like a paper towel. Outside is a trio of wafer-thin laminated polyester, polyamide, and elastic yarns that blocks wind and allows for excellent freedom of movement. An elastic panel in the front eliminates the bulk of a zipper or button closure, and expands sufficiently to helps keep you comfortable, even on long rides after a a big lunch. For early morning and evening riding, reflective printing provides 360 degrees of reflective visibility.

Beer? Bikes? When two great things come together, we’re left only to wonder why it hadn’t already happened.  Released this month the new guidebook Hops in the Saddle marries the best of Portland, OR: its expansive craft beer scene and its copious bike-friendly city streets. Written by Portland locals Elle Thalheimer, Lucy Burningham, and Laura Cary, each bike route has been carefully crafted to show the best of the city’s five neighborhoods, complete with detailed maps and cue sheets, catering to riders of all levels. The book also provides great “Bike Nerd Extended Routes”, and details on the city’s best breweries, bottle shops, and beer-, bike-, and budget-friendly bars and restaurants, written with both in-the-know authority and a sly sense of humor.  Oh, and buying this book also means you’ll have to visit Portland—which is something we heartily endorse.

If you worship in the cathedral of outdoors from atop your bike, here’s a line of t-shirts that evoke the spirit of your adoration.We love just about every one of their long- and short-sleeved shirts, made from machine-washable cotton elastine that’s soft to the touch.  But our go-to fashionista tester was instantly drawn to the True Religion T, with its sly “10 Commandment of Spin” badge on the side, contrast colored stitching, and fine printing on the front, rear, and sleeve. But we also confess we’re still struggling with the seventh commandment: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s bike.”

www.camelbak.com, 1.9 pounds
The trouble with traditional water bottle holders on the bike frame is that, unless you have the hands of David Copperfield, there’s always that split second when one hand—and all of your attention—is diverted from the road to the bottle. Wearing a hydration backpack lets you drink while you ride without ever taking your hands off the handlebars or losing your focus on the path ahead. We didn’t’ think the original  M.U.L.E. pack could be improved, but the new NV back panel provides independent articulating pods that move with you as you pedal. The result? A fully vented back panel that keeps the load off your back, in any position we could come up with.  The pack is designed for long (three-plus hours) rides. Inside, the bladder carries 100 ounces of your preferred beverage, with 560 cubic inches of storage space for a light jacket, wallet, energy bars, and keys. A removable hip belt provides stability, and the one-inch webbing is so light, you won’t notice it’s there. We love the media pocket with wire channels, as well as the stretch front pocket that easily fits a helmet or puffy. We found that the pack fit torso lengths from about 15 to 17 inches, so if you’re long from the hips to shoulders, this isn’t the right pack for you.

Tested In:

Good For: Biking, Skiing, Snowshoeing, Hiking